Epidemics are not genetic, by definition. Genetic disorders occur at a stable rate because only a certain amount of people carry the genes for certain genetic defects. Because the population is growing at a low and stable rate, therefore, an epidemic cannot be genetic.
The Perfect Storm
While many scientists, researchers and parents continue to look for the “smoking gun” behind the new epidemic of chronic childhood disorders, there is no singular cause. Instead, many variables associated with living in modern industrial society seem to be working in concert to weaken our children’s immune systems. It is a perfect storm of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors that affect each child uniquely.
Science is beginning to elucidate the fact that changes in our environment over the last few decades are having very real consequences for our health. Our children, the most vulnerable among us, are showing the earliest signs of that impact.
In the last few decades we have changed the way we grow food, the types of food we eat, the types of products we put on our skin and bring into our homes. We’ve even changed how we play, have fun and take care of ourselves when we are sick. All of these changes, these environmental factors, can initiate a vicious cycle of biological dysfunctions in our children’s bodies.
Total Load Theory
It is the total load (a term first coined by Patricia Lemer) of environmental stressors (also known as allostatic load) that a child carries that determines whether signs of ill health will emerge. When the total load is too great for any given body, this is when we begin to see symptoms that we then classify as chronic illnesses, such as autism, ADHD, allergies, asthma, diabetes and many others.
To be sure, genetics and genetic history play a role in the development of illness for particular children, but genetically-based explanations do not explain the widespread prevalence of chronic medical problems among children today. There are simply too many sick children to substantiate the theory that genetics cause their illnesses.
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Sources & References
Gillette, R., et al. Sexually dimorphic effects of ancestral exposure to vinclozolin on stress reactivity in rats. Endocrinology, 2014; en.2014-1253.
Lyall, K., et al. Maternal immune-mediated conditions, autism spectrum disorders, and developmental delay. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Jul;44(7):1546-55.
Ozaki, K., et al. Maternal Immune Activation Induces Sustained Changes in Fetal Microglia Motility. Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 7;10(1):21378.
Seong, K.H. Inheritance of stress-induced, ATF-2-dependent epigenetic change. Cell. 2011 Jun 24;145(7):1049-61.